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Festival Gems: Jean-Charles Hue's "Eat Your Bones"

Jean-Charles Hue’s portrait of a Yeniche camp attains a tangible sense of raw textures and whirlwind urges.
MUBI is showing Jean-Charles Hue's Eat Your Bones exclusively May 16 - June 15, 2016.

As befits a mélange of genre trappings and documentary contours, Jean-Charles Hue’s Eat Your Bones is riddled with elements chafing at each other—daybreak and dusk, reverent sermons and macho bluster, an outlaw’s perpetual flight and a community’s promise of stability. Opposites right out of a 1950s western, but the setting here is a Yeniche camp, a circle of trailers and tents on the rural periphery of French society. Introduced zipping across a battered meadow on the back of a motorcycle, the 19-year-old protagonist Jason (Jason François) faces a pair of imminent events: his upcoming baptism (“Christians can’t go wild,” he worries) and the return of his brother Fred (Frédéric Dorkel), fresh off a 15-year prison stint and starved for barbecue meat and nocturnal joyrides. (Their reunion is filmed from a low angle with blazing sunlight suffusing the hugging siblings, a turning point in a film that races tangibly toward nightfall.) An early moment illustrates Hue’s Claire Denis-like impressionism: Jason furtively siphons diesel from a rusty truck while nearby a half-awake local watches over his junkyard with shotgun in hand, and the camera's alternation of the boy's alertness with the yokel's sleepiness builds a singularly hazy rhythm. That rhythm continues to accelerate as Fred and his posse cram into his dormant BMW Alpina and head out for a robbery, a stark night cruise full of pit stops (the would-be hoods pull over to watch a fireworks display and flirt with a waitress) and registered in Jason's restless gaze. As in his previous film La BM du Seigneur, Hue works closely with Yeniche nonprofessionals to create a sense of raw textures and whirlwind urges, an immersion into a milieu not unlike one of Tony Gatlif's Roma shivarees but with its own undertow of danger. The mixture of improvised naturalism and hotheaded suspense is not always successful, but, in such evocative moments as a climactic dissolve from a racer's windshield to the inside of an evangelical tent, Eat Your Bones attains a potent balance of its conflicting drives.

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